60% Keyboard: How To Use Arrow Keys

Reducing the size of a keyboard can create a more compact and portable device, but it often means sacrificing some standard keys. One such challenge with 60% keyboards, which are smaller than full-size keyboards, is the absence or repositioning of arrow keys. Here’s how you can adapt to and use arrow keys effectively on a 60% keyboard.

Understanding 60% Keyboards

A 60% keyboard typically includes about 61 to 63 keys, omitting the numeric keypad, function row, navigation cluster, and sometimes even the arrow keys. This compact form factor appeals to those who value desk space and portability.

How to Access Arrow Keys on a 60% Keyboard

1. Check for Dedicated Arrow Keys

Some 60% keyboard models include dedicated arrow keys in a more compressed layout. These may be smaller or placed in a less conventional part of the keyboard. If your keyboard includes these, familiarize yourself with their positioning to improve your typing efficiency.

2. Utilizing Layer and Function Keys

In keyboards lacking dedicated arrow keys, manufacturers often incorporate them within a layer that can be accessed through a function (Fn) key. For example:

  • Fn + I might serve as the up arrow.
  • Fn + J as the left arrow.
  • Fn + K as the down arrow.
  • Fn + L as the right arrow.

This method uses the existing keys on the keyboard to perform multiple functions, depending on whether the Fn key is pressed simultaneously.

3. Customizing Key Bindings

If your 60% keyboard supports software that allows for key reprogramming, you can customize your layout to designate certain keys as your arrow keys. This can be particularly useful if the default layer settings are not intuitive or comfortable for your use case.

4. Using Tap Keys

Some keyboards offer a feature where keys can have different functions based on how long they are pressed. A quick tap might register as an arrow key, while a longer press registers the key’s primary function. This setting often requires adjustment through the keyboard’s software to optimize for personal responsiveness and use.

Tips for Effective Usage

  • Practice: Getting used to a new keyboard layout, especially one that requires toggling layers for common keys like arrows, can take some practice. Spend time using the keyboard to become familiar with the feel and function placements.
  • Software Tools: Utilize keyboard configuration software provided by the manufacturer to customize your layout. Tools like QMK or VIA are popular for programming custom mechanical keyboards.
  • Ergonomics: Consider the ergonomics of using function layers. Ensure that your frequent tasks don’t require awkward hand movements, which could lead to strain or discomfort.

Conclusion

While 60% keyboards offer a minimalistic design and portability, they can pose challenges such as the lack of dedicated arrow keys. By using function layers, software customization, or checking for models with integrated arrow keys, you can adapt to these compact layouts without sacrificing functionality. With practice and proper setup, you can enjoy the benefits of a smaller keyboard while maintaining full control over your typing and navigation needs.